“Mayor Pete has the most pragmatic and realistic plans”

Q&A with Sean Shaw ’00, 2018 Democratic nominee for Attorney General of Florida

by Zachary Shevin – Nov 25, 2019 (DailyPrincetonian.com)

The Daily Princetonian: You’ve endorsed South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg for President. So out of the crowded 2020 field, why is he your candidate?

Sean Shaw: You know, it’s real easy. Mayor Pete’s the one that makes me feel the best about this country. When I heard him speak, he’s the one that gave me goosebumps, and I learned more about him, and I realized that that was the kind of person that I wanted to be president…

He’s about the opposite of President Trump in almost every imaginable way, whether that is, you know, intelligence, whether that is service and the armed forces, whether that is just having a wonderful moral compass. And Mayor Pete is someone who I think also represents generational change, not just you know who the next President of the United States is going to be. Mayor Pete, the youngest of the front-runners by far, I think he represents certainly turning over up the torch in a certain sense. One of his sayings is to “the win the era,” and I totally believe that, so I endorsed him a while ago.

I have, you know, done some surrogate things around the country for him. I plan on continuing to do that because I believe in him. 

DP:  Buttigieg is polling well in Iowa, leading the pack in multiple statewide polls, but his numbers in the South, specifically South Carolina, and even more specifically among black voters in South Carolina are particularly low… As someone who has been to South Carolina on Mayor Pete’s behalf, why do you think that is?

SS: I believe it is a function of name ID at this point. At least when I was in South Carolina, it was a function of no one knew who he was… He’s running against a former Vice President and two [six] United States Senators. I mean, he’s a mayor of South Bend, Indiana. He is not as well known as these other people, so that’s going to be something that he’s going to work on and get better as we go… But listen. I’m here to tell you every candidate that’s not named Joe Biden, I think, has a long way to go in trying to garner their share of the African American vote. So I would look at everybody’s numbers through the lens of “they all got to do better”… You know? 

Mayor Pete is certainly speaking to issues that are important not only to African Americans, but important to people that understand climate change is an issue, people that understand that we need to protect our unions, people who understand the middle class is getting squeezed. He’s speaking to all these sectors.

And the plans — the “Douglass Plan” — that I’ve seen to specifically address the long, long racial wealth inequities that have hurt the African American community in this country. It’s the most expansive plan I’ve ever seen to address some of those historical inequities, not just the symptoms but the causes. So you know, he needs to get that plan out and make sure people know about it, make sure we get his name ID up, and fight like heck. This is gonna be hard. It’s much different when you’re the front runner, so as soon as he became the front runner in Iowa, and is doing well in New Hampshire, I think the knives are out. And this is a primary, so that’s going to happen, so we just gotta keep working at it.

DP: In June, a 54-year-old black man was shot and killed by a white South Bend police officer with his body camera turned off. And in the aftermath, Buttigieg said the South Bend P.D. remains disproportionately white because he “couldn’t get it done.” How do you think Mayor Pete handled the aftermath of that situation, and why do you think he’ll be able to “get it done” as President?

SS: One, I want to make sure we understand that he made that admission on the stage during a presidential debate. And he made it knowing that he was going to get whacked about it, knowing that he was going to open himself up to people taking shots at him. I’m a politician; I know, that’s a hard thing to do to say, “I didn’t get it done. My bad,” and so I give a major props for doing that.  But obviously, if you didn’t get the job done, then there’s some doing that needs to be done with regards to doing better in the department, making sure the department is more diverse and, you know, you’ve got to work at that. He’s got … to make sure he’s working at that. 

All of the candidates have blemishes, and, this is not, we’re not running for who we’re going to worship on Sunday. People are running to be the President of the United States, and so we have to look at everyone’s record and who fits us best, who makes us feel the best, who we think we can beat Donald Trump — there’s a lot, a lot of things that go into that. But I remain convinced, and the more time that goes by remain even more convinced, that Mayor Pete is the right person to follow the travesty that we have in there now.

DP: And you mentioned sort of thinking about who can beat Donald Trump. Many voters have said “electability” and ability to beat Trump will be one of the biggest factors in their decision-making come primary season. Do you think Buttigieg is electable, and what makes him more electable than some of the other top contenders?

SS: I certainly think he’s electable. And he’s electable, I think, because he is someone that appeals to, in my opinion, the broadest range of voters, whether [or not] that is in the Democratic primary — I think it may also appeal to disaffected Republicans, who may be willing to admit in the booth that maybe they made a little mistake when they voted for the person that’s in there now.  So I think he appeals to the widest range of voters, and you’ve just got to prove that… When I was going around and talking to people, it’s hard to find someone who just doesn’t like Mayor Pete. You can find people that don’t know him. You can find people that may have policy disagreements, that may like other candidates more, but it’s hard to find someone that has a very negative feeling about Mayor Pete. And I think that’s, one, because he appeals to the broadest range of voters. 

But I think second, and it’s one of the reasons I liked him so much, he includes optimism, and he exudes positivity, and that’s what people want right now. You turn on your TV now, and all you see and all you hear is negativity, not just from one side, but from both sides. And I get it. But he certainly, the reason I was drawn to him, [he] was so positive, and was so moving, and was so touching as to how he might be able to put this country on a better path. That’s why I went with him, and I kind of think that’s what’s gonna appeal to a broad range of voters as we go forward.

DP: When you say that you think Mayor Pete appeals to such a broad range of voters, what about him specifically allows him to bring in voters from that broad range?

SS: Well, I’ll use this healthcare plan for one. You know, it’s ‘Medicare for those who want it.’ That is not as far as some of the other people have proposed, and it’s not as expensive as the price tag that’s been put on some other health care plans. And when you’re talking trillions and trillions and trillions of dollars, that is a problem for some people. It’s a problem for me … It’s things like that. It’s his solutions to even the college debt. You know, forgiving debt for everyone is one thing, and that’s hugely expensive. Are we forgiving debt for those that needed to be forgiven for them? Because everyone doesn’t need their debt forgiven. Some people are okay paying it; some people are not. 

And so I think Mayor Pete’s plans are pragmatic and don’t go down the road that some of these other plans would go. And while some other plans may sound good, when you start attaching price tags to some of these plans, you’re getting into deep water really fast. And so I think Mayor Pete is going to be able to make the case that he has the most pragmatic plans to get done what most Democrats want to get done in a realistic manner that may even be attractive to some of our people on the other side.

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